manipulate Visual Theatre Festival launches 2020 programme

Puppet Animation Scotland's manipulate festival returns in January and February with its biggest programme to date

Feature by The Skinny | 23 Oct 2019

The manipulate festival brings some of the best and brightest from the worlds of visual theatre, film and puppetry to Edinburgh in the depths of winter, and the 2020 edition is the festival's biggest yet. More than 70 performances, screenings, workshops and events – featuring artists from Scotland, England, Europe, North America and Australia – are packed into the programme, which runs from 31 January to 8 February at Summerhall and the Festival Theatre Studio. 

Scottish theatre at manipulate

The festival kicks off with A Brief History of the Fragile Male Ego (31 Jan, 8.30pm) from feminist theatre company Jordan and Skinner – read our review from the show's run at this year's Edinburgh Fringe – and Cirqulation: Other Worlds, a special edition of Scottish circus cabaret night Delighters (31 Jan, 9.30pm). 

The Edinburgh-based Tortoise in a Nutshell begin their 10th anniversary year with new production Ragnarok (7-8 Feb, 7.15pm). Tackling the climate crisis and taking influence from Nordic myths, it's a co-production with Norwegian theatre company Figurteateret i Nordland. Fellow Scottish-based company Visible Fictions present Up (6 Feb, 6pm), a new work looking into the 29.4 million-to-one odds of dying in a plane crash. Cheery.

Two Destination Language premiere their new production, Fault Lines (6 Feb, 9pm), a new large-scale show about "the constricting roles and identities contemporary society places on women, a caustic fashion show on the fracture between feminism and fabric". Paper Doll Militia, creators of the five-star Egg, return with new production A Wire Apart (5-6 Feb, 7.15pm), looking at our obsessions with technology and the ways in which we communicate. 

International theatre

Collectif AÏE AÏE AÏE, touted by manipulate as one of France's most revered and successful visual theatre companies, present a pair of works in this year's programme. Ma Biche et Mon Lapin (1 Feb, 2pm and 3pm), "a puppetry duet about the misadventures and misunderstandings of love and life", and Ersatz (1 Feb, 5pm and 6.30pm) which promises to flit between light humour and deranged farce.

French/Russian company Samolœt present After Chekov, inspired by the work of the Russian playwright (3-4 Feb, 7.15pm). Nataly Lebouleux’s company Improbable Dolls tackles issues of conversion therapy and gay exorcism in Mina (3 Feb, 6pm and 7.45pm). 

Short Film, Cabaret and Workshops

The manipulate short film programme features curated programmes from a pair of film festivals. The Edinburgh Short Film Festival present a selection of Animated Highlights from their 2019 programme (1 Feb, 2pm), and Festival Stop Motian Montréal – the world’s first stop motion animation festival – bring a selection of films to Edinburgh in A Taste of Quebec (1 Feb, 3.30pm). Award-winning animator Emma Calder presents a retrospective of short films from her Pearly Oyster animation house, followed by a Q&A (1 Feb, 5.30pm).

For those of you looking to dip your toes in the programme, manipulate's free cabaret events (3-8 Feb, 7.45pm) offer the chance to catch some of Scotland's best physical theatre artists in an informal setup. The festival also present Critical Response Process: A Primer (8 Feb, 2pm), a workshop on engaging with new work led by theatremaker and producer Tashi Gore.

Simon Hart, director of the festival's organisers, Puppet Animation Scotland, says: "The growth of Scottish companies presenting world-class work at the festival has really made programming our 13th festival incredibly special for the whole team, and we look forward to another exciting, stimulating and thought-provoking celebration of the very best of Scottish and international visual theatre, puppetry and animated film."

manipulate Visual Theatre Festival, Summerhall and The Studio at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 31 Jan to 8 Feb
Full programme and tickets at
The Skinny is a media partner of manipulate Visual Theatre Festival